The Back Nine comes at you after a weekend when we found out which teams will be in the Super Bowl and which conference is better in basketball.
- There was so much going on this weekend, I’m not sure where to start. Maybe we should go with the event in Gainesville that drew the biggest crowd. It was close, but according to the official attendance that would be men’s basketball. So, here we go. In the first half of the game, I thought I was watching the Florida football team. There are a lot of things wrong with this Gator basketball team – most notably the players who aren’t playing – but we had not seen this team with that kind of passive body language before. It looked like a team that didn’t want to be there. And then Mike White found a way with very loud noises to get his team to play like they wanted to be there for the second half. And there is something to be said for that. “In the first half … We were laying down, we weren’t being aggressive on defense, we weren’t rotating well, we weren’t boxing.” Said guard Phlan Fleming after the game. The second half was pretty amazing and much needed.
- Florida moved up to 40th in the NET Rankings and you may get tired of me quoting these rankings, but they are important. And the SEC flexed a bit because there were a lot of people telling you that the Big 12 was the best conference and the SEC won six of 10 to take the Challenge for the second year in a row. The league now has four teams in the top 13 in the NET and five in the top 22.
- On to the sport that came up just short of the best attendance for the weekend (officially) and that was gymnastics. The Link To Pink packed them into the O-Dome and Florida blitzed Arkansas. Even with all the injuries this team has dealt with (three out for the year), Florida just seems to be getting better with every meet, which is what Jenny Rowland likes to see. Trinity Thomas just looks as if she is ready to be that alpha to lead this team to a national title and she had plenty of support with that No. 1 class Rowland brought in.
- And we can talk about the women’s basketball game, which was not the way Gators wanted it to turn out, but was still a happening. I was there when the players came out for the start of the game and saw the lower bowl close to filled and people sitting where they haven’t sat before because there was actually a crowd. And to see the smiles on the faces of the players as they ran on the court was heart-warming. “To play in front of Gator Nation full force was really, really special,” said Florida coach Kelly Rae Finley. “It’s part of what we’re building.” You might have thought they were building an outdoor kitchen the way the Gators were throwing up bricks in the first quarter. Scoring three points is not going to get it done against South Carolina. It almost seemed like the moment was too big for them because they were missing easy shots.
- Maybe it was because South Carolina is so big and they were expecting shots to get blocked, but so many of those shots throughout the first half were short, many never getting over the rim. The Gators settled down and actually outscored the No. 1 team 33-17 down the stretch. But you could see the gap between the best in women’s college basketball and those also receiving votes. Still, there are more games to be played and no rest for the weary with Tennessee coming to town on Thursday at 6 p.m.
- They didn’t have quite the excitement of the previous weekend’s games, but they certainly did not disappoint in the NFL Conference title games. It looked like the Chiefs were going to blow out the Bengals and they might have if not for the terrible decision at the goal line at the end of the half. Throw the ball into the end zone or kick a field goal. Those should be the only possible solutions. If they needed some plays, I could have sent them. One thing my daughter said to me this weekend while we were watching games (yes, she has been infected with the sports virus) was this, “Dad, you probably could be a football coach. But you could never coach basketball.” Touché.
- I have been trying to think about what the Bengals remind me of and I think it is the Braves. It’s like, every step they take you can’t believe it. The Rams, on the other hand, went out and mortgaged the future on the present and that only works if you make the Super Bowl. And they did. So, we have two SEC quarterbacks going head-to-head in the biggest game there is. Seems appropriate.
- We’ve about come to the end of The Picks for another year and it was a good one. I beat the tar out of Drew Copeland in our bowl picks and Dr. Football is 61-47-3 in his first attempt to pick an entire football season against the spread. Because I was out last week to tend to a personal (and personnel) matter, I didn’t pick the two conference championship games. So, this is it. The Rams are early four-point favorites over the Bengals. I’ll take the Rams.
- You know that feeling when you are flipping the dial with your thumb and they play a song you like on Sirius and you just stay on that channel for a while because they get on a roll. That happened to me. As a result, your playlist:
* “Time” by “The Alan Parsons Project” and if you don’t say the name of the group with air quotes we can’t be friends.
* ”She’s My Baby” by The Traveling Wilburys.
* ”Come Monday” by Jimmy Buffett.